Games of Jan. 1-16
By Joshua Boyd / USPHL.com
We’re taking a close look at the leaders since Januar 1 in the Florida and Southeast Divisions of the USPHL Elite, including a few teams that have already punched their USPHL Playoffs ticket for March. That automatically gives each of those teams a 50 percent chance of reaching the USPHL Nationals in Utica, March 23-28. We’ll dig deep into the teams that have gone .500 or better, but also look at all of the upcoming matchups this week and weekend on one of the toughest circuits in all the league, including the Southeast Division – home of every USPHL Elite champion since 2017.
Records indicate games since Jan. 1. Statistics are through Jan. 16
Carolina Jr. Hurricanes (6-1-0-0)
The Jr. Hurricanes have the best points total of the last few years, with 59 through 35 games, tied with the 2021-22 Charlotte Rush for the best since 2018. It was the 2017-18 Islanders Hockey Club, who put up 64 points through 35 games, standing as the team that set the high water mark at this point in the season. For the league-leading and playoff-bound Jr. Canes, this is their best season at this point, beating the 51 points they put up after 35 games in 2019-20. With a Monday win, their new total of 61 points puts them just four points short of the 65 posted through the entirety of that 2019-20 season.
While they may be all set for playoffs, they’re still quite a ways from sealing up the top seed. The Charlotte Rush are just four points back and they are on a 12-game point streak.
- Competing as the home team or away team typically all comes to the same result – a Jr. Canes win. They have six more points than anyone else as the home team (17-1-1-0, 35 points) and their 12 wins as the away team are second only to the Rush’s 13.
- Carolina has won 25 of the 27 games in which the Jr. Canes have scored the first goal (25-1-1-0). They are tied with the Islanders Hockey Club for best winning percentage in that situation.
- The Jr. Canes are No. 2 in both power play and penalty killing, and both off of the first spot by .2 percent. They are at 23.4 percent on the power play, and at 90.8 percent on the kill. They have also scored 11 shorthanded goals, second most in the league.
- The Jr. Canes are no. 2 in offense at a 1.78 goals against average, and they also allow the fewest shots on goal at 26.23, while firing the second most on their opponents (43.26).
- Leading defenseman Colby Markham’s assist on Monday gives him an active four-game scoring streak going back to Jan. 9, at 2-4-6. Luke Moses is also on a four-game run with a 2-3-5 line.
- Markham leads all Elite defensemen with 36 points.
- Entering Monday, he was also one of three Jr. Canes in the top five of power play points – Brayden Strong is tied for the league lead with 19 points, Markham is third at 15 and Moses is tied for fourth at 14.
- Both Jacob Sanders and Pavel Matiunin are in the top five for goals against average at 1.71 and 1.97, respectively.
The Road Ahead: After playing seven games in the space of nine days, the Jr. Canes get a bit of a break. They will resume action over the Jan. 28-29 weekend against the Hampton Roads Whalers.
Charlotte Rush (4-0-1-0)
The Rush are still unbeaten in regulation over their last 12 games going back to Dec. 4. They hit their first speedbump, breaking up an 11-game winning streak, when they fell 4-3 in OT on Monday, Jan. 16, to Carolina. It must’ve been a heartbreaker, given the fact the Rush had come off two straight showcase sweeps – four W’s at the USPHL Florida College Showcase in December in Estero, Fla., and then four more at the USPHL Tampa Showcase in Wesley Chapel, Fla. The Rush entered Monday’s game four points back of the Jr. Canes and will leave with a five-point gap, one too many to tie after their next two games this weekend while Carolina is idle from game action.
- At 13-3-0-0, the Rush have the best away team record in the USPHL Elite.
- The Rush are third in offense in the league at 2.06 goals per game.
- Charlotte has the best record when leading after one period, with an 18-0-0-0 mark, and after two periods, at 26-0-0-0. Through Jan. 15, they were the only team to have never been tied after two periods.
- Yianni Tsatsoulis is the top scorer for the Rush so far in 2023 with seven points. He remains on an eight-game point streak going back to Day 2 at the Florida College Showcase. They have a 4-10-14 line in those eight contests.
- Also on scoring streaks after Monday are Wesley Sweitzer (0-7-7 in four games) and Spencer Barrow (5-3-8 in four games).
- Sweitzer, at 30 points, and Benjamin Pearson (28) are second and tied for fourth, respectively, in Elite defenseman scoring.
- Evan Crawford, who spent some time with the Premier squad recently, came back and remains the No. 1 goaltender in goals against average at 1.36 and he is second in save percentage at .944.
The Road Ahead: The Rush will bring in the Hampton Roads Whalers this coming weekend, hoping to continue to build on a 28-7-1-1 all-time record against a key Southeast Division rival.
Potomac Patriots (3-0-0-1)
The Patriots had one of their biggest wins of the season when they defeated the first place Carolina Jr. Hurricanes by a 5-2 score on Saturday, before falling 3-2 in a shootout on Sunday. Because of how well the Patriots are doing in this, their best season ever, it wasn’t a huge upset but it was still satisfying knowing they can beat the best.
With two wins to start the year against the Hampton Roads Whalers, The playoff-clinched Patriots have never come closer than last year’s 31 points to the 53 they have right now after 35 games. In fact, they’ve long since blown past last year’s 35-point total for the full 2021-22 season. It’s history and they also want to make much more of it – by winning their playoff series and making it to their first-ever Nationals.
- When the Patriots went to the shootout against Carolina on Sunday, it was their first time ever going beyond regulation. Only the Elmira Jr. Enforcers, who are 0-1 in a shootout (with no overtime results) have gone beyond as seldom as the Patriots.
- The Patriots have been shorthanded more than any other team – 189 times – but they’ve given up just 17 power play goals for the league’s best penalty kill at 91.0 percent.
- They’ve also scored the most shorthanded goals, at 13. It’s a lot, but they have a long way to go until they can try to match the 2017-18 Islanders Hockey Club record of 20.
- The Pats are best at breaking ties after two periods – no team can match their 6-2-0-1 record in that situation.
- David Csemi’s nine points in four games lead the Patriots for January so far. He registered his second hat trick in the win over Carolina.
- Mark Pivec, who joined the team in November, has never failed to score a point. In nine games, he has a 6-10-16 line.
- All three goaltenders for the Patriots have save percentages of .963 or better this month. Eddie Kaiven’s .973 is best in the Elite for goalies with more than one game, while Joseph DaRosa is also at .973 for his 36-save performance Jan. 8 against the Whalers. Elik Radovanovic stopped 52 of 54 shots in 65 minutes before giving way in the shootout on Sunday.
The Road Ahead: The Patriots have a Saturday-Sunday home-and-home against the defending National Champion Richmond Generals. The Generals are seven points ahead of fifth place and hoping to pick up some serious points this week to try to nail down a playoff spot sooner than later, so the Patriots can certainly expect a hard series.
- The Generals have dominated past years’ series, and have a slim 2-1-0-0 lead this season so far. Overall, Richmond have won all but two of their 46 all-time meetings. Last season, the Patriots got their first-ever win over Richmond in OT and on Oct. 26, 2022, a Wednesday night, the Pats defeated Richmond 3-1 for the first time in regulation.
Nashville Spartans (3-3-0-0)
With their participation in the USPHL Tampa Showcase in the first weekend of 2023, the Spartans join the Jr. Canes and Rush as having the most games so far in the new year. They followed a 1-3 showing in Tampa with a 2-0 sweep of the Florida Division’s Atlanta MadHatters on Jan. 14-15. They defeated Atlanta 4-2 and 6-2 this past weekend, avenging a 6-4 showcase loss to Atlanta on Jan. 7. Also in Tampa, they faced the Florida Eels (4-3 loss), the Palm Beach Typhoon (5-2 win) and the Florida Jr. Blades (3-2 loss). The Spartans are seven points out of fourth place and are hoping to catch up and potentially pass the defending National Champion Richmond Generals – no small feat. The Spartans have a further disadvantage of the fact they have just six games left to cross that seven-point barrier, and the Generals have five games in hand.
- The Spartans have done best when outshooting opponents, with 12 out of their 16 wins coming in this situation.
- Their wins are split right down the middle between home and away, with eight in each category.
- Two Spartans move on to their next action on hot streaks: Nathan Fishman (4-3-7 in four games) and Cody Patton (six assists in his last five games).
The Road Ahead: The Spartans hit the road to face the Columbia Infantry this weekend. They’ll arrive Saturday and play at 5 p.m. and again play 9:30 on Sunday morning.
- The Spartans are up 2-1 in the season series against the Infantry, who are also a first-year USPHL franchise. The Spartans split their first weekend in October, with a 5-1 Nashville win followed by a 6-4 Columbia win. The Spartans also won 6-2 at the USPHL Florida College Showcase.
Richmond Generals (1-1-0-0)
The Generals saw nearly a month between game action. They had come off a 4-0 run at the USPHL Florida College Showcase, went through the holidays and practiced for the stretch drive while most of their divisional mates hit the USPHL Tampa Showcase.
Coming off that break, they pulled off a 5-0 shutout of longtime regional rivals the Hampton Roads Whalers, with Ethan Carlone registering his fourth shutout out of his last five starts. The Whalers took Game 2 of the weekend by a 3-1 score, which left the Generals with a 5-2-0-1 series win for 2022-23.
The Generals remain a strong contender for returning to the Elite playoffs. While they may be 12 points out of third place, they are also seven points ahead of the fifth-place Nashville Spartans with five games in hand. Teams that are just three points ahead of the Generals’ 41 have clinched playoff berths, so the Generals can’t be far off.
- The Generals are among the best in getting shots on goal and keeping them to a minimum the other way. They are third at 42.36 in shots on goal per game and fourth at 27.64, a shot advantage of 14.72 per game.
- The Generals are one of just three teams undefeated when tied after two periods, standing at 3-0-0-0 in that situation.
- Owen Cross, an ‘05 from Bellingham, Wash., led the Generals in scoring for the first weekend of 2023 with three assists.
- Carlone is third in both goals against average (1.62) and save percentage (.944).
The Road Ahead: The Generals stay in Virginia another weekend by playing a home-and-home with the Potomac Patriots. This weekend’s home-and-home starting in Richmond will be the fourth and fifth out of eight total meetings this year, meaning these historic rivals will still face each other five more times from now.
Florida Eels (3-1-2-1)
The Eels were one of the five busiest teams in the USPHL Elite early on in 2023, all of whom played seven games since the start of the new year.
The Eels played in four games at the USPHL Tampa Showcase, going 2-1-1-0 at that event. The Eels were 4-3 winners over the Nashville Spartans before falling 4-3 to the league’s No. ` team, the Carolina Jr. Hurricanes. After a 4-1 win against the Jersey Hitmen, they fell on the final day by a 4-3 score in overtime to the Charlotte Rush.
They jumped right back into action two days after that showcase, falling to the Florida Jr. Blades by an 8-7 score in overtime. They saw the Jr. Blades three days later, on Saturday, Jan. 14, and fell again, this time in a shootout, 3-2. After three games of not being on the winning side, they got back there with a 7-2 win over the Palm Beach Typhoon on Jan. 15.
The Eels have a comfortable, though not ironclad, lead of nine points above the second place Tampa Bay Juniors, both with 13 games remaining. With 45 points, they are well ahead of and most likely safe from, any threat to first by the Atlanta MadHatters at 28 points. Florida has two games on them, and the Palm Beach Typhoon – at 27 points – have four games in hand on Atlanta and two games in hand on Florida. Eighteen points with less than two months remaining is a mountain that would require a lot of things to go right for the MadHatters or Typhoon to climb to the top of the Florida leaderboard.
- The two overtimes and a shootout all in a row put the Eels in a three-way tie for most times beyond regulation with Atlanta and the Jersey Hitmen.
- The Eels’ 5-for-11 performance on shootouts (45.5 percent) is tied for first with the MadHatters among teams with more than one shootout this year. Florida has struggled the other way with a 6-for-10 performance by their opponents.
- Lorenzo Marchetta broke into the top 10 with his recent run of 13 points (6-7-13) in seven 2023 games, which leads all Elite players in the new year. He is on a four-game point streak of 5-6-11 since the second-to-last Tampa Showcase game.
- Jachym Cermak is the top goal-scorer among Elite defensemen with 14, and he is also fourth in scoring at 28 points.
The Road Ahead: The Eels are right back up against their regional rivals the Florida Jr. Blades on Wednesday, before taking on the Tampa Bay Juniors in a Friday/Sunday home and home.
- The Eels hold a 32-9-3-2 all-time lead over the Jr. Blades, but it’s the team from Estero that is currently leading the 2022-23 season series at 2-1-0-0 (including the shootout win, giving the Eels a 1-1-0-1 record).
- The Tampa Bay Juniors hold a 28-16-1-0 record, though eight of the Juniors wins have been in OT, giving the Eels an all-time mark of 17-18-8-0.
Florida Jr. Blades (4-2-1-0)
Happy New Year, indeed! The Eels have won four games out of their total of six since Jan. 1, and they have also earned nine out of their 14 points in the same span of time. At 4-5-1-0 in their last 10, they have the second best record over 10 games only to the Florida Eels (5-2-2-1) within their division, and they’ve been responsible for both an Eels overtime loss and a shootout loss all just since the USPHL Tampa Showcase.
At the Tampa Showcase, they started with a 4-3 OT loss to the Jersey Hitmen, but rebounded to beat the Columbia Infantry, 4-1. They took a 6-3 defeat to the league’s No. 1 team, the Carolina Jr. Hurricanes but again bounced back with a win, 3-2 over the Nashville Spartans. From there it was a short break before facing the Eels on Wednesday. In one of the wildest Eels vs. Blades games in history, Sean Curtin ended the roller-coaster ride of an 8-7 Jr. Blades OT win. The Palm Beach Typhoon defeated the Jr. Blades by a 5-2 score in Florida’s sixth game in seven days on Jan. 12. It was another classic when the Jr. Blades faced the Eels on Sunday, this time at Fort Myers Skatium. The result was the same – a Jr. Blades win, 3-2 by shootout. The Gusty’s – ‘02 Jacob and ‘05 Samuel – scored the two shootout goals needed for the win. The Jr. Blades, who face the Eels again on Wednesday, are hoping to earn their first season series win against their rivals since the inaugural 2017-18 season of the USPHL Elite.
- Elijah Harris’ successful penalty shot against the Eels on Jan. 11 was the first for the Jr. Blades in three attempts since 2018.
- Three Jr. Blades have cllicked at a point per game at least so far in 2023’s seven games: Sebastian Mason (6-2-8); Jacob Gusty (1-6-7) and Nate Mongeau (5-2-7).
- Mongeau has an active eight-game point streak, posting 5-3-8 going back to Dec. 18. This included a five-game goal streak between Jan. 7-12.
- After falling to Carolina, goalie Riley Robeson has enjoyed a three-game winning streak, including both W’s against the Eels.
The Road Ahead: Wednesday’s rematch against the Eels is their only action for a week. Their next game after that will be Wednesday, Jan. 25, against the Typhoon. They end January with a three-game home stand against Atlanta.
In Other Action
The Tampa Bay Juniors have been idle from game action since hosting the 2023 USPHL Tampa Showcase, but they’ll get back into action with hopes of bouncing back from a lukewarm 1-2-1-0 performance at their home facility to start 2023. The Juniors will bring in the Florida Eels Friday and then go to Fort Myers on Sunday. They’ll end the month with a two-game trip to Columbia, S.C.
The Atlanta MadHatters are looking to regroup after a pair of losses on Jan. 14 and 15 to the Nashville Spartans, one of the two teams they defeated at the USPHL Tampa Showcase. The Palm Beach Typhoon, one point short of Atlanta’s 28 for third place, are like the MadHatters in going 2-4 so far in 2023. After going 1-3 in the USPHL Tampa Showcase, the Typhoon rebounded to beat the Jr. Blades, 5-2, on Jan. 12 before falling to the Eels, 7-4, on Jan. 15.
So there is a lot on the line when Atlanta and Palm Beach hit the ice together for games in Atlanta this Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Atlanta holds an all-time series lead of 7-2-0-1, including a 2-0-0-1 series lead this season so far. Both teams want third place and a possible charge at second (Tampa being eight points north of Atlanta). They also want to gain ground on the fifth and sixth place Columbia Infantry and Florida Jr. Blades so as not to give up their potential playoff positions. The Typhoon, at fourth, are a relatively safe 12 points ahead of Columbia with three games in hand.
The Columbia Infantry will face another fifth-place team trying to make a run at a playoff position in the Southeast Division’s Nashville Spartans. Columbia begins a seven-game home stand with this weekend’s two games. Nashville holds the season and all-time series lead of 2-1-0-0.
Drop The Pucks!